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January 2015 Newsletter

Welcome Samantha! 

This month, our long-time Coordinator Katey Lauer will be stepping into a mentoring role, and we’re so excited to welcome Samantha to our team as the new Coordinator!

Samantha is a Knoxville, TN native who has experience working with a number of advocacy organizations including Tennesseans for Fair Taxation, The Tennessee Heath Care Campaign and The Amputee Coalition of America. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with her two dogs, Fred and Chuck, knitting and traveling.

Says Samantha: “I don’t think the world faces a more important or pressing issue than protecting our people and our planet. That’s why I’m so honored and excited to be working with the wonderful folks of The Alliance for Appalachia who work hard everyday to support Appalachian people and stem the tide of environmental calamity throughout the great and beautiful Appalachian mountains.”‘

Welcome to the team, Samantha!

Anniversary of the #WVWaterCrisis

It has been one year since the terrible coal-chemical leak near Charleston, WV poisoned the water for over 300,000 people in the area. Below is a reminder of that time: just a bit of the many truckloads of the bottled water collected by volunteers with the West Virginia Water Hub and the many other organizations that joined together to deliver water.


Now, a year later, many people still don’t trust their taps, with recent revelations that the company knew there were problems at  Freedom Industries long before the spill and that federal officials ignored important issues like the air quality concerns caused by breathing in the powerfully smelling chemical MCHM.

This month there are a series of events focusing on the anniversary, the issues created by the spill, and the powerful organizing communities have been doing to hold the industry and the state government accountable. Mark January 17th on your calendar to attend the Charleston, WV leadership training, march and rally, and check out the rest of the events here.

Updates from the Movement: 

Anticipated Changes to the Stream Buffer Zone Rule Move Forward

Last February, a Bush-era change to the Stream Buffer Zone rule was overturned due to citizen-led litigation, and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) is now reverting to the original 1983 Stream Buffer Zone rule. This rule aims to protect streams by creating a buffer zone around streams that coal companies can not dump waste into. Those living near mountaintop removal can tell you that this law was rarely enforced to fully protect streams, but the Bush era changes made it even weaker.

This spring, the OSM plans to initiate a process to create a new, potentially stronger rule that could go farther to protect our people and our water. A draft rule and an accompanying draft environmental impact statement are slated to be released sometime in the spring of 2015 – stay tuned, we’ll be actively participating in the comment period around this important rulemaking. Read more here.

New Tool Shows Mountaintop Removal is Still Happening
Using Google Maps, experts at Appalachian Voices tracked instances of mountaintop removal mines expanding since 2007. This tool is an important reminder of the urgency for the Obama administration to take action to end mountaintop removal. Check out the site to see some of the heartwrenching “before” and “after” images of the damage caused by mountaintop removal in just the past few years. Then followthis link to tell President Obama to take action today!

Tenth Annual I Love Mountains Day in Kentucky
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC) will be hosting the tenth annual I Love Mountains Day on February 12th in Frankfort, KY. There will be a rally and lobby day at the capitol building. For more details, check out the KFTC website! The picture below, courtesy of KFTC, is from the powerful 2014 rally.

SOCM Gets a New Executive Director
Ann League – BBQ expert, long time supporter of SOCM, Appalachian Voices and an invaluable part of The Alliance for Appalachia since our foundation – has been named the new Executive Director of Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment. We’re so excited for this new era for SOCM and for Ann! Read more in the SOCM newsletter.

Regional groups file suit for federal takeover of coal oversight agencies.
A coalition of groups have filed lawsuits in federal court in Kentucky and West Virginia asking for a federal takeover from the EPA of state agencies currently responsible for enforcing federal clean water laws. Citizens have long dealt with lack of enforcement of federal laws that puts our health, our environment and our economy at serious risk. Unable to get protection from state government agencies, they are hoping for a court order that gives oversight to the federal EPA.  Read more about it in this article.

News and Updates:

Op Ed from ACLC Attorney Calls for AML Investment in the Mountains
Noting that the Appalachian coalfields helped build American into the country it is today, Evan Smith calls for reinvestment into the communities that are facing economic and environmental difficulties due the legacy of coal in the region.

SAMS leader Jane Branham call for Abandoned Mine Land funds to be used to employ out of work miners
“AML funds should be allocated to cleaning up abandoned mine lands and not used for political gain or profit. We have coal miners unemployed due to mine closures. What if we could put them back to work reclaiming these lands?”

This NYTIMES oped by Robert Kennedy highlights the impacts of coal operating as an outlaw industry and calls for taking coal money out of politics.

Blankenship Trial Postponed to April  
Five years ago, in April 2010, a tragic explosion at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine in Raleigh county killed 29 miners. According to the article, former Massey CEO Don Blankenship “faces a four-count indictment that alleges he conspired to violate mine safety rules, hamper federal safety enforcement and lie to securities regulators and investors.” The trial has been set to begin in April 2015.

West Virginia Board of Education Approves Inaccurate and Misleading Climate Change Science be Taught
In December, the board changed the science standards to eliminate references to human causes of climate change, ignoring the content created by science experts and educators. You can sign a petition against this ridiculous move here and learn more in this article.

This Op Ed in the Kentucky Herald Leader highlights the dangerous and hypocritical discrepancies of federal agencies regarding the Broad Form Deed, which should protect property owners from mining on their property without consent.

Kanawha State Forest and Area Community Still Under Threat from the mining operations. The Kanawha Forest Coalition continues to fight this permit that puts the popular forest and area community members at risk. The mine has already been cited for numerous violations.

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